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Mountain West Championship: Hawaii vs. Boise State - Three things to look for, Predictions

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Both teams will look to cap off special season with a trophy

NCAA Football: Hawaii at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

HAWAII VS. BOISE ST.

Location: Boise, Idaho (Albertsons Stadium)

Date/Time: Saturday, December 7th at 2:00 p.m. (Mountain Time) 11:00 a.m. (Hawaii Time)

Television: ESPN

Streaming: ESPN App

Radio: ESPN Honolulu/Bronco Radio Network

Head-to-Head: To put it mildly, Boise State has owned this series. Hawaii defeated Boise State in 1996 and 1999, but are 1-13 against the Broncos since the turn of the millennium. Hawaii’s only victory in that span was the famous 39-27 win over the Broncos in 2007. Since then, the closest margin between the two programs was 20 points in 2008, a 27-7 win for the Broncos. Boise State won the most recent matchup back in October 59-37 in Boise.

Three things to look for (Hawaii Perspective - Jeremy):

1. Hawaii receivers time to shine

This isn’t the first clash between Boise State and Hawaii. The final score of the October game was somewhat deceiving and not totally indicative of how the game played out. When Boise State had its foot on the gas pedal, Hawaii’s star wide receivers struggled. Cole McDonald actually played well considering the pressure from the Boise State defensive line, but his wide receivers didn’t play to their potential. Cedric Byrd was held to 74 yards on 6 catches. JoJo Ward was completely shutout, 0 yards on 0 catches. Hawaii’s leading wide receiver on the day, Melquise Stovall, isn’t on the team anymore.

McDonald is ready for the challenge of Boise State. Jason-Matthew Sharsh has been playing great football in recent weeks. All this said, if Hawaii’s offense wants to provide the team with a chance to hoist a trophy, the wide receivers must be on their game and cannot have the slump they had back in October. Byrd and Ward, in particular. A combined 74 yards will not get the job done Saturday.

2. The Warrior defense absolutely must step up

As usual, the criticism for losing performances always comes for the offense for a Hawaii program who’s culture is all about the run-and-shoot. That’s the brand, it’s what people talk about. The defense, however, wasn’t exactly an asset back in October. The Broncos scored 59 points and managed to rush for 203 yards despite struggling to have the running game work for most of the 2019 season. Boise State starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier was injured in the contest, and backup Chase Cord came in and torched the Warriors. Cord struggled mightily in his other two starts. Pass, run, it didn’t matter. Boise State’s offense moved the ball with ease that night.

If Hawaii wants to win this game, that must change. Boise State has gone through some adversity at quarterback, but oddly has opted to remain with third-string quarterback Jaylon Henderson despite talk that injured Bachmeier and Cord are “available”. Henderson is a bit of a dual-threat, but not quite the passer the other two quarterbacks are. Can Hawaii take advantage of Henderson? Expect Boise State to work the perimeter of the field with their running backs and wide receivers on sweeps. The weather should help slow down the Broncos offense, but one thing is for sure: defensive coordinator Corey Batoon’s unit needs to control the line of scrimmage better and force turnovers to succeed Saturday.

3. Which quarterback leads the day?

This feels like a weekly topic. Once again, this time in the regular season finale against Army, Hawaii’s starting quarterback did not finish the night the starting quarterback. Redshirt freshman Chevan Cordeiro was given the nod, but left the game in the second quarter with an undisclosed injury. Cole McDonald came in and dominated the Black Knights. Does the pendulum swing back in McDonald's favor? The CBS Sports Network broadcast was told that Cordeiro was cleared to return to the game, but obviously didn’t. Did McDonald wrestle the spot back from him, or was Rolovich saving Cordeiro for the championship game?

I’m not sure, and won’t take a guess. That said, I feel like it’s a safe bet that we’ll see both McDonald and Cordeiro in this game.

Three things to look for (Boise State Perspective - Zach)

1. Can the Broncos continue to overcome injuries?

The Broncos have had a plethora of injuries this season, especially at the quarterback position. Boise State has gone with Jaylon Henderson the last three games and he has been more than effective going 3-0 in that time. Henderson is now listed on the depth chart as the starter. Rumor has it that all three quarterbacks are available, Henderson may have very well passed Cord, but I think the Bachmeier injury is more serious than coaches are letting on. With that being said, Henderson does not have to be perfect, he just needs to avoid turnovers and find his playmakers.

2. Will weather play a role?

Last year, I thought the weather would be too much for Fresno State to overcome. Turns out it may have favored the Bulldogs. It doesn’t look like it will be quite as frigid this year, but rain and cool temperatures could come into play. If that is the case, it certainly should favor the Broncos and their run game.

3. Which receivers will have a better day?

In their matchup earlier in the year, Boise State did an excellent job of limiting Ward and Byrd. I expect both receivers to have a better performance this weekend, especially with Stovall being gone. With that being said, I think Shakir, Hightower, and Thomas are the better wide receiver trio by a long shot. The Broncos would be wise to get these guys involved in a variety of ways. Zak Hill needs to get Shakir and Hightower close to double digit touches.

Predictions:

Jeremy - You know the old cliché: it’s always hard to beat the same twice. Boise State learned that the hard way last season in the championship game. I do think Hawaii has grown since the 59-37 loss back in October, both offensively and defensively. This will be no easy task. The defense is bound to be tired from having faced the dreaded triple option this past Saturday, and the travel is never easy. It’s bound to be cold, wet, and just generally uncomfortable. In the 2018 Mountain West Championship, footing was an issue for both Boise State and Fresno State. The Vegas spread consensus is around -15.5 Boise State with an o/u of 65. They’re predicting offensive records to be set in this Saturday’s edition of the championship game. I’m not. I think it’ll be a cagey, minor defensive struggle (by the standard’s of these two explosive offenses). Hawaii covers the spread and scares the daylight out of the Broncos, but homefield advantage proves to be the difference in the end. Give me Boise State 29, Hawaii 24.

Zach - It is always hard to beat the same team twice. Considering Boise’s recent history with Fresno State, it isn’t hard to question if beating Hawaii a second time won’t be challenging for Boise State. Their October showdown may have had a 59-37 final score, but the Broncos dominated from the opening whistle. If Boise State can capitalize on some turnovers, they may be able to come away with a convincing win. With that being said, I think Rolo will make some adjustments and Hawaii will do a better job of limiting the Boise State offense. But the Broncos have a far better defense and this is Curtis Weaver’s chance to make a statement for NFL scouts. Boise State 34- Hawaii 24